John Searle

Contemporary Philosophy in the United States

>The dominant mode of philosophizing in the United states is called 'analytic philosophy'. Indeed, analytic philosophy is the dominant mode of philosophizing no only in the United States, but throughout the entire English-speaking world, including Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is also the dominant mode of philosophizing in Scandinavia, and it is also becoming more widespread in Germaniy, France, Italy and throughout Latin America.


>What is analytic philosophy? The simplest way to describe it is to say that it is primarily concerned with the analysis of meaning. Specifically, analytic philosophy is based on the work of Gottlob Frege, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore, as well as the work done by the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle in the 1920s and 1930s.

>In the central period, analytic philosophy was defined by a belief in two linguistic distinctions, combined with a research programme. The two distincitions are, firstly, that between analytic and sythetic propositions, and, secondly, that between descriptive and evaluative utterances.

>One way to see the development of analytic philosophy over the past thirty years is to regard it as the gradual rejection of these two distinctions, and a corresponding rejection of foundationalism as the crucialenterprise of philosophy. However, in the central period, these two distincitions served not only to identify the main beliefs of analytic philosophy, buyt, for those who accepted them and the research programme, they defined the nature of philosophy itself.


>The distinction between analytic and synthetic propositons was supposed to be the distinction between those propositions that are true or false as a matter of definition or of the meanings of the terms contained in them (the analytic propositions) and those that are true or false as a matter of fact in the world and not soley in virture of the meanings of the words (the synthetic propositions).

>Examples of analytic truths would be such propositions as 'Triangles are three-sided plane figures', 'All bachelors are unmarried', 'Women are female', '2+2=4' and so on. Such propositions can be known to be true or false a priori, and in each case they express necessary truths. Indeed, it was a characteristic feature of the analytic philosophy of this central period that terms such as 'analytic', 'necessary', 'a priori' and 'tautological' were taken to be co-extensive.

>Contrasted with these were synthetic propositions, which, if they were true, were true as a matter of emprical fact and not as a matter of definition alone. If these propositons are true, they express a posteori empirical truths about the real world that are independent of language. Such empirical truths according to this view, are never necessary; rather, they are contingent. For philosophers holding these views, the terms 'a posteriori', 'synthetic', 'contingent' and 'empirical' were taken to be more or less co-etxtensive.

>Propositions that were neither analytic nor empirical propositons, and which were therefore in principle not verifiable, were said to be nonsensical or meaningless. The slogan of the positivists was called the verification principle, and in a simple form, it can be stated as follows: all meaningful propositons are either analytic or sythetic, and those which are synthetic are empirically verifiable.


>The positivists claimed that many utterances that had the form of meaningful propositonss were used not to state propositions that were verifiable either analytically or synthetically, but to express emotions and feelings. It is important to note that on this conceptions eveluative propositions are not, strictly speaking, either true or false, since they are not verifiable as either analytic or empirical.

>If the task of philosophy is to state the truth and not to provide evaluations, what then is the subject matter of philosophy? Since the methods of philosophers are not those of empirical science ---- since their methods are a priori rather than a posteori --- it cannot be their aim to state empirical truths about the world. The aim of philosophers, therefore, is to state analytic truths concerning logical relations among the concepts of our language. In this period of philosophy, the task of philosophy was taken to be the task of conceptual analysis.

>If we combine the assumption that philosophy is essentially a conceptual, analytic enterprise with the assumption that its task is foundational ---- that is, its task is to provide secure foundations for such things as knowledge ---- then the consequence for the positivists is that philosophical analysis tends in large part to be reductive. That is, the aim of the analysis is to show, for example, how empirical knowledge is based on, and ultimately reducible to, the data of our experience, to so-called sense data. (This view is called 'phenomenalism'.) Similarly, statements about themind are based on, and therefore ultimately reducible to, statements about external behaviour (behaviourism). necessary truth is similarly based on conventions of language as expressed in definitions (conventionalism): and mathematics is based on logic, especially set theory (logicism).

>Within the camp of analytic philosophers who thought the aim of philosophy was conceptual analysis, there were two broad streams. One stream thought ordinary language was in general quite adequate, both as a tool and as a subject matter of philosophical analysis. The other stream thought of ordinary language as hopelessly inadequate for philosophical purposes, and irretirievably confused.

>Bothe streams, however, accepted the central view that the aim of philosophy was conceptual analysis, and that in consequence philosophy was fundamentally different from any other discipline; they thought that it was a second-order discipline analysing the logical structure of language in general, but not dealing with first-order truths abo0ut the world. Philosophy was universal in subject matter precisely because it had no special subject matter other than the discourse of all other disciplines and the discourse of common sense.


>The most obvious problem with traditional analytic philosophy was that the reductionist enterprise failed.


>Quine claimed that there were no propositions that were immune to revision, that any proposition could be revised in the face of recalcitrant evidence, and that any propositons could be held in the face of recalcitrant evidence, provided that one was willing to make adjustments in other propositons originally held to be true.

>Language, on this view, is not atomistic. It does not consist of a set of propositions, each of which can be assessed in isolation. Rather, it consists of a holistic network, and, in this network, propositions as groups confront experience; propositons individually are not imply assessed as true or false. (This holism of scientific discourse was influenced by the French philosopher of science, Duhem, and the view is frequently referred to as 'the Duhem-Quine thesis'.)

>If we accept Quine's rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction, then philosophy is not something that can be clearly demarcated from the special scineces. It is rather, adjacent to, and overlaps with, other disciplines. Although philosophy is more general than other disciplines, its propositions do not have any special logical status or special logical priority with regard to the other disciplines.


>Austin's first observation was that there is a class of utterances that are obviously perfectly meaningful, but which do not even set out to be either true or false. (eg. 'I pronounce you man and wife'). He baptized these utterances 'performatives' and contrasted them with 'constatives'.

>The distinction between constatives and performatives was supposed to contain three features: constatives, but not performatives, could be true or false; performatives, on the other hand, though they could not be true or false, could be felicitous or infelicitous, depending on whether or not they were correctly, completely, and successfully performed; and finally, performatives were supposed to be actions, doings or performances, as opposed to mere sayings or statings.

>But, as Austin himself saw, the distinctions so drawn did not work. Many so-called performatives turned out to be capable of being true or false. And statements, as well as performatives, could be infelicious. Finally, stating is as much performing an action as promising or ordering or apologizing. The abandonment of the performative-constative distinction led Austin to a general theory of speech acts. Communicative utterances in general are actions of a type he called 'illocutionary acts'.

>One great merit of Austin's theory of speech acts is that it enabled subsequent philosophers to consture the philosophy of language as a branch of the philosophy of actions. Since speech acts are as much actions as any other actions, the philosophgical analysis of language is part of the general analysis of human behaviour. And since intentinal human behaviour is an expression of mental phenomena, it turns out that the philosophy of language and the philosophy of action are really just different aspects of one larger area, namely, the philosophy of mind.


>The single most influential analytic philosopher of the twentieth century, and indeed, the philosopher whom most anlytic philosophers would regard as the greatest philosopher of the century, is Ludwig Wittgenstein.

>Wittgenstein attempted to undermine the idea that philosophy is a foundational enterprise. he asserted, on the contrary, that philosophy is a purely descriptive enterprise, that the task of philosophy is neither to reform language nor to try to place the various uses of language on a secure foundation. Rather, philosophical problems are removed by having a correct understanding of how language actually functions.

>The effect, Wittgenstein says, of philosophical analysis is not to alter our existing linguistic practices or to challenge their validity; it is simply to describe them. Language neither has nor needs a foundation in the traditional sense.


>The conception of moral philosophy in the positivist and post-positivist phases of analytic philosophy was extremely narrow.

>Rawls, in effect, revived the social contract theory, which had long been assumed to be completely defunct. He used the following thought experiment as an analytic tool: Think of the sort of society that rational beings would agree to if they did not know what sort of position they themselves would occupy in that society. If we imagine rational beings, hidden behind a veil of ignorance, who are asked to select and agree on forms of social institutions that would be fair for all, then we can develop criteria for appraising social institutions on purely rational grounds.


>There were different versions of scientific method, according to the philosophers of that period, but they all shared the idea that scientific, empirical propositions are essentially 'testable'. Initially a proposition was thought testable if it could be confirmed, but the most influential version of this idea is Popper's claim that emrirical propositons are testable if they are falsifiable in principle.

>Propositions of science are, strictly speaking, never verifiable ---- they simply survive repeated attempts at falsification. Science is in this sense fallible, but it is at the same time rational and cumulative.

>The picture of the history of science was very dramatically challenged in Thomas Kuhn's book The Structure of Sceitific Revolutions (1962). According to Kuhn, the history of science shouw not a gradual and steady accumulation of knowledge but periodic revolutionary overthrows of previous conceptions of reality.

>Feyerabend also challenged the conception of there being a unitary rational 'scientific method'. Feyerabend tried to show that the history of science reveals not a single rational method but rather a series of opportunistic, chaotic, desperate (and somethimes even dishonest) attempts to cope with immediate problems.


>Philosophy is now, I believe, a much more interesting subject than it was a generation ago because it is no longer seen as something separate from, and sealed off from, other disciplines. In particular, philosophy is now seen by most analytic philosophers as being adjacent to and overlapping with the sciences. My own view, which I feel is fairly widely shared, is that worlds like 'philosophy' and 'sicence' are in many respects misleading, if they are taken to imply the existence of mutually exclusive forms of knowledge. Rather, it seems to me that there is just knowledge and truth, and that in intellectual enterprises we are primarily aiming at knowledge and truth.

>Philosophy tends to be more general than other subjects, more synoptic in its vision, more conceptually or logically oriented than other disciplines, but it is not a discipline that is hermetically sealed off from other subjects.


>Cognitive science from its very beginnings has been 'interdisciplinary' in character, and is in effect the joint property of psychology, linguistics, philosophy, computer science, and anthropology. But the central area of cognitive science, its hardcore ideology, rests on the assumption that the mind is best viewed as analogous to a digital computer.


>A central question in analytic philosophy of language, since Frege (and indeed in philosophy since the time of Plato), has been: How does language relate to the world? How do words hook on to things?

>Meaning on this view are not concepts in people's heads, but objective relations in the world: There must be some sort of causal connection between the use of the word and the object or type of entity in the world that it apples to.

>There is a very natural way of connecting the computer functionalist conception of the mind with the causal theory of reference. If the mind were a computer program, and if meaning were a matter of causal connections to the world, then the way the mind acquires meanigs is for the system that implements the computer program to be involved in causal interactions with the world.


>Meaning is a matter of a self-referential inteition to produce an effect on a hearer by getting the hearer to recoginize the intention of produce that effect.


>Philosophers such as Quine and Donald Davidson have always felt that intentionalistic theories of meaning, of the sort proposed by Grice and Searle were philosophically inadequate, because the intentionalistic notions seemed as puzzling as the notion of meaning itself and because they could necessarily involve linguistic meaning in their ultimate analyses.

>The most influential version of this attempt is Davidson's project of analysing meaning in terms of truth conditions. The basic idea is that one knows the meaning of a sentence if one knows under what conditions it is true or false.

>It is important to note that we are to think of this as a thought experiment and not as an actual procedure that we have to employ when we try to learn German, for example. The idea is to cash out the notion of meaning in terms of truth conditions, and then cash out the notion of truth conditions in terms of a truth theory for a language, which is a theory that would entail all the true T-sentences of the language. The empirical basis on which the whole system rests is that of the evidence we could get concernig the conditions under which a speaker holds a sentence to be true.



>Wittgenstein claims that it would be logically impossible for there to be a language that was private in the sense that its words could only be understood by the speaker because they referred to the speaker's private inner sensations and had no external definition. Such a language would be absurd, he said, because for the application of such words there would be no distinction between what seemed right to the speaker and what really was right.

>'An inner process stands in need of outward criteria.', says Wittgenstein.


>Wittgenstein is part of a long tradition that emphasizes the distinction between the modes of explanation of the natural sciences and the modes of explanation of human behaviour and human cultural and psychological phenomena generally.

>His analysis stressed the difference between the way that rules guide human behaviour and the way that natural phenomena are results of causes.

>According to one view of Wittgenstein, he is arguing that rules do not determine their own application, that anything can be interpreted to accord with a rule, and consequently that anything can be interpreted to conflict with a rule. If taken to its extreme, this argument would have the consequence that, logically speaking, rules do not constrain human behaviour at all. And if that is right, then mental contents, such as knowledge of meanings of words or principles of action or even belioefs and desires, do not constrain human behaviour, because they are everywhere subject to an indefinite range of different interpretations. Wittgenstein's solution to this scepticism is to propose that interpretation comes to an end when we simply accept the cultrural practices of the community in which we are imbedded. Interpretaton comes to an end, and we just act on a rule. Acting on a rule is a practice, and it is one that we are brought up to perform in our culture. The sceptical implications of Wittgenstein's account of rule following are resolved by an appeal to a naturalistic solution: We are simply the sort of beings who follow culturally and bilogically condtioned practices.



>My own view is that philosophy of mind and social philosophy will become ever more central to theentire philosophical enterprise. The idea that the study of languge could replace the study of mind is itself being transformed into the idea that the study of language is really a branch of the philosophy of mind. Withing the philosophy of mind, perhaps the key notion requiring analysis is that of intentionality ---- that property of the mind by which it is directed at or about or of objects and states of affairs in the world independent of itself.

>I believe that the causal theory of reference will be seen to be a failure once it is recognized that all representations must occur under some aspect or other, and that the extensionality of causal relations is inadequate to capture the aspectual character of reference. The only kind of causation that could be adequate to the task of reference is intentional causation or mental causation, but the causal theory of reference cannot concede that ultimately reference is achieved by some mental device, since the whole approach behind the causal theory was to try to eliminate the traditional mentalism of theories of reference and meaning in favour of objective causal relations in the world. My prediction is that the causal theory of reference, though it is at present by far the most influential theory of reference, will prove to be a failure for these reasons.

John Heil

Philosophy of Mind, Routledge (1998) ISBN 0-415-13060-3

Chapter 3:Varieties of materialism: Behaviorism and psycho-physical identity

>Materialism has a long history. Democritus (c. 460-370 BC) described the world as a fleeting arrangement of atoms swirling in the void. Hobbes (1588-1679) and La Mettrie (1707-51) regarded mental phenomena as nothing more than mechanical interactions of material components. Nowadays, materialism of one stripe or another is more often than not taken for granted.

>In this chapter, we shall examine a pair of precursors to the contemporary debate: behaviorism and the mind-brain identity theory.

>Philosophical behaviorism is associated with a thesis about the nature of mind and the meanings of mental terms. Psychological behaviorism emerged from a particular conception of scientific method as applied to psychology.


>Now imagine that you are able to peer at the brain of someone suffering a headache. What you observe, even aided by instruments that reveal the fine structure of the brain, is altogether different from what the headache victim feels.

>We are faced with a difficulty. Science is limited to the pursuit of objective, "public" states of affairs. An objective state of affairs can be apprehended from more than one perspective, by more than one observer. The contents of your mind, however, are observable (if that is the word) only by you.


>Once we start down this road, we may come to doubt that states of mind ---- as distinct from their physiological correlates ---- are a fit subject for scientific examination. Eventually, the very idea that we are in a position even to establish correlations between mental occurrences and goings-on in the nervous system can come to be doubted

>A recent twist on this ancient puzzle introduces the possibility of "zombies," creatures identical to us in every material respect, but altogether lacking conscious experiences. The apparent conceivability of zombies has convinced some philosophers that there is an unbridgeable "explanatory gap" between material qualities and the qualities of conscious experience.


>Wittgenstein (1889-1951), in his Philosophical Investigations (s. 293), offers a compelling analogy: Suppose everyone had a box with something in it: we call it a "beetle". No one can look into anyone else's box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle. ---- Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in his box. One might even imagine such a thing constantly changing.

>To wonder whether your beetle resemble my beetle is to misunderstand this use of "beetle." It is to treat "beetle" as though it named or desinated a kind of object or entity. But "beetle" is used in such a way that "the object drops out of considereation as irrelevant."


>Perhaps when you tell me that you have a headache, you are not picking out any definite thing or private condition at all (think of the beetle), but merely evincing your headache. You have been trained in a particular way.

>The private character of that state could differ across individuals. It might continually change, or even, in some cases (zombies?), be altogether absent.

>This line of reasoning supports what is often dubbed philosophical behaviorism. (It is dubbed thus by its opponents. Few philosophers routinely so characterized have appled the label to themselves.)

>The philosophical behaviorist holds that the Cartesian conception of mind errs in a fundamental way. Minds are not entities (whether Cartesian substances or brains); and mental episodes are not private goings-on inside such entities. We are attracted to the Cartesian picture only because we are misled by what Wittgenstein calls the grammar of our language.

>Philosophical problems arise "when language goes on holiday,", when we lose touch with the way our words are actually used.

>The philosophical problem of other minds arises when we wrench "mind," "thought," "feeling," and their cognates from the contexts in which they are naturally deployed, put a special interpretation on them, and then boggle at the puzzles that result.

>Gilbert Ryle (1900-76) extends Wittgenstein's point. According to Ryle, the supposition that minds are kinds of entity amounts to a "category mistake". (e.g. a question after the tour in the campus "Where is the university?)

>We begin with the idea that minds are entities, distinct from. but similar to brains or bodies. When we have trouble locating such entities in the material world, we assume that they must be non-material. We see the mind, to use Ryle's colorful phrase, as the ghost in the machine.

>If "mind," like "university," does not function to name a particular kind of material or immaterial ("ghostly") entity, how does it function? Perhaps we ascribe minds to creatures with a capacity to comport themselves, as we should say, "intelligently." A creature possesses a mind, not in virture of being equipped with a peculiar kind of private ingredient, its mind, but in virture of being the sort of creature capable of engaging in behavior that exhibits a measure of spontaneity and a relatively complex organization.

>On a view of this sort, an agent is correctly describable as having states fo mind, not only in virtue of what that agent does, but also in virtue of what he would do, what he is "disposed" to do.

>But now we are confronted with a new question. What is it to "be disposed" to behave in a particular way? What are dispositions?

>I do, presumably, what I am disposed to do; but I may be disposed to do many things that I never do because the opportunity to do them does not arise or because they are overridden by competing dispositions.

>The guiding idea is that, if talk about states of mind can be analyzed or paraphrased into talk about behavior (or dispositions to behave), then states of mind will have been "reduced to" (shown to be nothing more than) behavior (or dispositons to behave). Analysis of this sort amounts to the reduction of something to something else.

>What are the prospects for reductive analyses of states of mind?

>One worry is that behavioral analyses are open-ended. There is no limit on the list of things you might do or be disposed to do if you harbor the belief that there is a bear on the trail, for instance. What you do will depend on the circumstances, and the circumstances can vary in indefinitely many ways.

>Another difficulty is less easily dismissed. You see a bear on the path and form the belief that there is a bear on the path. But what you do and what you are disposed to do evidently depends on your overall state of mind: what else you believe and want, for instance.

>The problem is that there is apparently no way to avoid mention of further states of mind in any statement of what behavior a given state of mind is likely to produce.


>If the attempt to analyze talk of states of mind into talk of behavior is unworkable, what is left of philosophical behaviorism?

>What of Ryle's contention that it is a mistake to regard your possessing a mind as a matter of your body's standing in a particular relation to a distinct entity, your mind? And what of Wittgenstein's suggestion that terms used to ascribe states of mind are not used to designate objects of some definite sort? Both of these ideas are independent of the behaviorist's analytical project, and both survive in accounts of the mind that are self-consciously anti-behaviorist.


>Philosophers are in the business of marking clear the subtleties of the conception of mind enshrined in ordinary language. Psychologists, and other empirical scientists, investigate the character of the world.

>Accoriding to philosophers like Wittgenstein and Ryle, we discover that psychology has more often than not made use of familiar terminology in unfamiliar ways. This can lead to a systematic misunderstanding of psychological theses.

>We introduce a technical notion using a familiar term. The technical notion may be importantly different from the sense of the term in its everyday use. We then establish truths that pertain to the technical notion. Confusion results when we interpret these as applying to whatever the original term applies to.

>If we suppose, as early behaviorists like J.B. Watson (1878-1958) and B. F. Skinner (1904-90) supposed, that only what is publicly observable is a fit subject for sicence, we shall exclude states of mind, as traditionally conceived, from scientific consideration.

>We could put this by saying that, on the behaviorist conception, minds, conscious experiences, and the like do not exist.

>Just as we have put behind us explanations of demented behavior that appeal to possession by evil spirits, so we must put behind us explanations that appeal to private inner occurrences. This is what behaviorists set out to do.

>The data for psychological behaviorism are instances of behavior, "behaviors," what organisms do. We explain an instance of behavior, not by postulating unobservable interior states of mind, but by reference to environmental stimuli that elicit the behavior. The governing model is the simple reflex. I tap your knee, and your leg bobs in a characteristic way.

>Behaviorists held that all behavior, even complex behavior, could be fully explained in S-R terms.

>Behaviorists assume that all learning can be explained in terms of simple associative mechanisms. This assumes that complex tasks ----your coming to master English, for example ---- can be broken down into simpler tasks, each of which can be explained in something like the way the rat's bar-pressing is explained.

>In 1959, Noam Chomsky published a review of Skinner's Verbal Behavior in which he argued that Skinner's attempts to extend the behaviorist model of learning to the linguistic performances of human beings were hopelessly inadequate. Chomsky claimed that linguistic abilities could not, even in principle, be explained without assuming that human beings possessed a sizable repertoire of complex cognitive strucutures that governed their use of language. This attack on central behaviorist themes had a devastaing effect on the behaviorist program.

>One further difficulty inherent in the behaviorist program is worth mention. Consider the central notion of behavior. What constitutes an instance of behavior?

>Think of your answering the door when the doorbell rings. We might call this door-answering behavior. But there need be no bodily motions in common among instances of this behavior. Somethimes you walk calmly to the door and open it. On other occasions you may trot to the door, or go on tiptoe, or, if you are otherwise occupied, merely shout "Come in!" Again, it is difficult to imagine that the mechanism connecting the doorbell's ring with your door-answering behavior is a simple reflex mechanism. It looks, for all the world, like a relatively complex state of mind.

>Similar considerations hold of the behaviorist notion of stimulus.

>Then it looks as though appeals to such stimuli in explanations of behavior will be trivial. A response is elicited by a stimulus. Which one? The response-eliciting stimulus. And if this is so, the theory is uninformative.

>There is some other reason to suspect that the behaviorist model is fundamentally misguided. Think for a moment of your response to a given stimulus, the appearance of a bear in your path, for instance. Strictly speaking, it would seem not to be the bear  that elicits your response (whatever it might be), but your perceiving or in some way taking note of the bear.



>The more we learn about the nervous system, the more we discover apparent correlations between mental occurences and neurological goings-on in the brain.

>Suppose these correlations were perfect: every mental state or process could be matched to some neurological state or process. What should we make of this?

>One possibility is that endorsed by the Cartesians: the correlations are based on causal interaction between minds and brains. Another possibility is epiphenomenalism: the correlations are the result of mental goings-on being produced as epiphenomenal by-products of neurological activity. A third possibility: each mental and material event is willed by God in such a way that they occur in orderly patterns.

>These possibilities are all founded on the assumption that mental states or events are distinct from physical states or events. The identity theory rejects this assumption. Despite appearances, mental occurrences are taken to be nothing more than goings-on in the brain. If this is so, then it is misleading to say that mental occurences are correlated with brain processes. Mental goings-on are brain processes, and a thing is not correlated with itself.

>Its proponents argue that, other things equal, the identity theory is prefereable to its dualist rivals for two reasons. First, and most obviously, the identity theory provides a straightforward solution to the mind-body problem. A socond consideration favoring the identity theory is parsimony.


>The chief reason for supposing that states of mind could not be brain states is that mental and material states appear to be radically different in kind. These differences are both epistemological and ontological.

>On the epistemological front, the "access" we enjoy to states of mind is notably asymmetrical. A Cartesian explains this epistemological asymmetry by noting that others' knowledge of one's states of mind depends on observations, not of the states themselves, but only of their effects on material bodies.

>A second hurdle facing anyone aiming to replace the Cartesian picture is ontological. Neurological occurrences can be observed and described in great detail. But observe as we will, we seem never to observe anything at all like a conscious experience. It is hardly surprising that we never observe anything with the features of our experiences when we observe the workings of brains. Brains, after all, are material entities. Assuming that science is devoted to the investigation of the material world, we seem to be back with a Cartesian conception: minds are distinct from material bodies.

>Notwithstanding these difficulties, many philosophers (and many non-philosophers) have been attracted to the view that, at bottom, minds are nothing more than material bodies.




>Our concept of identity, or selfsameness, is useful because it is common to speak or think of a single object in different ways. Suppose you discover that John Le Carre is David Cornwell. The "is" here, the "is" of identity, must be distinguished from the "is" of predication, as in: Le Carre is English.

>The identity theory extends the notion of identity to properties. Like objects, properties can be the subject of identity claims. Red is the color of ripe tomatoes. A single property, a color, is designated by distinct predicates, "is red" and "is the color of ripe tomatoes."

>Identity theorists focus on what Smart calls theoretical identities. Such identities are uncovered by scientists exploring the way the world is put together. Lightning, we came to discover, is an electrical discharge; water is H2O; temperature is mean kinetic energy of molecules; liquidity is a particular kind of mokecular arrangement. An identity theorist holds that it is a good bet that research on the brain will lead to the discovery that certain properties we now designate using mental terms are properties of brains.




>Consider conscious thought: Thinking is something we do. Like anything we do, in doing it, we are in a position to appreciate that we are doing it. To be sure, we rarely bother to reflect on the fact that we are doing what we are doing. but when we do reflect, we are not acting as observers ---- epistemologically well-placed observers ---- of what we are doing. Your recognition of what you are about stems from the fact that it is you who are doing it.

>Two points bear mention.

>First, in undergoing a conscious sensory experience, you do not (1) have the experience and (2) observe ---- perhaps in an especially intimate way with an inward-directed perceptual organ or scanner ---- the experience. Your awareness of the experience is constituted, at least in part, by your having it. This is why talk of "access" to one's sensory experiences is misleading. Your recognition that you have a headache is constituted, in part, by your having or undergoing the headache. Differently put: your conscious experience of the headache is a matter of your having it. It is not that the headache occurs and, in inwardly observing it, you experience its occurring.

>Second, we must distinguish a system's undergoing some process or being in some state, from observations of a system's undergoing a process or being in a state. My refrigerator defrosts automatically. The system's defrosting on an occasion is, in an obvious way, very different from my observing its defrosting. Similarly, your undergoing a pain is very different from my observing your undergoing it. Now, if "directly observing a sensation" just amounts to having that sensation, then there is no puzzle at all in the idea that only you can "directly observe" your sensations. This is just to say that only you can have your sensations. And this is no more mysterious than the thought that only my refrigerator can undergo its defrosting.

>Considerations of this sort tell against the Cartesian picture, not by providing a refutation of that picture, but by offering an alternative depiction of what might be included in self-awareness.


>One worry that I ahve left untouched concerns the unity of experience. How is this unity of experience to be reconciled with the widely dispersed and fragmented character of neural processing? Hopes for finding a neurological "Central Processing Unit," a neurological analog of a computing machine's CPU, have faded. Even if we were to locate a neurological CPU, however, it is by no means clear that its operation would account for the unity of experinece. A point of view is jut that: a point from which the world is apprehended. The relation of this point to the experienced world resembles the relation of the eye to the visual field. The eye is not within the visual field, but stands at its limit.

(updated on March 9, 1999: to be continued)

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